The origin of toys is prehistoric; dolls representing infants, animals, and soldiers, as well as representations of tools used by adults are readily found at archaeological sites. The origin of the word "toy" is unknown, but it is believed that it was first used in the 14th century. Toys are mainly made for children. The oldest known doll toy is thought to be 4,000 years old.
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In some cultures, societies utilize toys as a way to enhance a child's skillset within the traditional boundaries of their future roles in the community. In Saharan and North African cultures, play is facilitated by children through the use of toys to enact scenes recognizable in their community such as hunting and herding. The value is placed in a realistic version of development in preparing a child for the future they are likely to grow up into. This allows the child to imagine and create a personal interpretation of how they view the adult world.
More complex mechanical and optics-based toys were also invented. Carpenter and Westley began to mass-produce the kaleidoscope, invented by Sir David Brewster in 1817, and had sold over 200,000 items within three months in London and Paris. The company was also able to mass-produce magic lanterns for use in phantasmagoria and galanty shows, by developing a method of mass production using a copper plate printing process. Popular imagery on the lanterns included royalty, flora and fauna, and geographical/man-made structures from around the world. The modern zoetrope was invented in 1833 by British mathematician William George Horner and was popularized in the 1860s. Wood and porcelain dolls in miniature doll houses were popular with middle class girls, while boys played with marbles and toy trains.
A milestone for research on gender is the use of meta-analysis, which provides a way to assess patterns in a systematic way, which is especially relevant for a topic such as gender, which can be difficult to quantify. Nature and nurture have historically been analyzed when looking at gender in play, as well as reinforcement by peers and parents of typical gender roles and consequently, gender play. Toy companies have often promoted the segregation by gender in toys because it enables them to customize the same toy for each gender, which ultimately doubles their revenue. For example, Legos added more colors to certain sets of toys in the 1990s, including colors commonly attributed to girls such as lavender.
Blowing bubbles from leftover washing up soap became a popular pastime, as shown in the painting The Soap Bubble (1739) by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. Other popular toys included hoops, toy wagons, kites, spinning wheels and puppets. The first board games were produced by John Jefferys in the 1750s, including A Journey Through Europe. The game was very similar to modern board games; players moved along a track with the throw of a dice (a teetotum was actually used) and landing on different spaces would either help or hinder the player.
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Pretend play is an essential part of a well-rounded childhood, helping kids develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. By the age of three, your children will naturally begin to engage in pretend play, and you can ensure this activity is safe and rewarding by providing them with a good selection of age-appropriate toys. Make-believe must-haves include toy kitchens and play workshops, costumes, musical instruments and active toys like blasters and water guns. As your kids spend more time and energy in pretend worlds, their understanding of the real world will grow, and the skills they acquire will benefit them for a lifetime.